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Flying to Israel from Dubai: a horrible airline, s...

Flying to Israel from Dubai: a horrible airline, some misfortunes and heavy interrogations

This has been the longest 24 hours of my life.

Dubai and Israel are neighbouring countries and for reasons that I haven’t researched yet, there are no direct flights between these 2 countries. In fact, flights to Israel from any part of the Middle East (except for Istanbul) are non-existent. I had to take a long way because there was no other easy and cheap option but to take Wizz Air and stop in Bucharest, Romania. As usual, if you want cheap airfares, you must be willing to take the long and hard way.

One day before my flight, I learned from Kim, the Marketing Manager of Time Hotels Dubai that I am not flying from Dubai International Airport but from Al Maktoum. For media trips, journalists are required to give their onward ticket to the host/sponsor so they can arrange airport transfers and/or refund fares depending on the agreement. Seriously, I wouldn’t have known if Kim did not tell me they could not provide a complimentary service for me because it was too far. It wasn’t a part of the agreement.

Of course, I understood. The existence of another airport in Dubai was new to me. It was one hour away from the city and I had to pay 200.00 AED ($54.00 USD) for the taxi service. Okay, let’s do that math: I paid $275.00 USD for my Dubai-Tel Aviv one-way ticket plus the 200 AED ($54.00 USD) taxi service = $329.00 USD. Just wanted to take note. Later on, you will see how I want to remove “budget airlines” to my travel jam.

Finally, I arrived the deserted Al Maktoum Airport and I wasn’t expecting to be bombarded with so much questions…

IMG_3817

It was standard procedure, they said. Again, for reasons I haven’t researched yet, all non-Israelis who are flying to Israel will undergo a massive interview – worst than applying for a US visa. I was already expecting it as I got heads up from my friends who had the same experience. Over 30 questions were asked, if I counted that correctly and here are the top 10 that I remember:

  1. What are you going to do in Israel?
  2. Who is paying for the trip?
  3. Why do you have a business visa for Dubai?
  4. Who is hosting you in Dubai?
  5. Are you married? (Wait, what???)
  6. How many hours are you stopping in Romania?
  7. Where is your Romanian visa?
  8. Where is your Israeli visa?
  9. Who is getting married in Tel Aviv and what is your relation to them?
  10. Where will be the wedding held?

Over an hour of this and I was already drained. “Everything is sababa.” I said. Sababa is one of several Hebrew slang meaning “great” or “cool” and can express enthusiasm, satisfaction or assent. It really makes a difference if you are equipped with some basic language skills.

“Okay, you can check in now. Thank you so much for your time. When you reach the boarding gate, you will be asked some questions again. Same when you arrive in Bucharest. Standard procedures.”

I put my bag in the check-in in belt when the ground steward said, “Madam, a checked in luggage is not included in your ticket. You have to pay separately for this.”

Seriously? Seriously? I did not have a choice but to pay another 250 AED ($68.00 USD) for checked in luggage. First, I had to go out of the airport and find a money changer because this airport does not accept any currency but dirhams. So, I haven’t checked in, I have to exchange money, I have to pay my excess baggage – all in different counters and areas of the airport. It was insane.

How I managed to do all this with only 30 minutes left to boarding? I have no idea.

After exchanging and paying, I went back to the check-in counter to give the receipt. “Your checked in bag goes straight to Tel Aviv. You don’t have to pick it up in Bucharest. Have a nice trip, Madam.”

Again, let’s do the math: $275.00 USD (airfare) + 200 AED ($54.00 USD) taxi to airport + 250 AED ($68.00 USD) for the luggage = $397.00 USD. Let’s add 100 AED ($27.00 USD) for food. Since Wizz Air is a “budget airline,” food is not included onboard. Total of $424.00 USD.

Meanwhile, at the boarding gate, the argument(s) I went through were:

  1. Philippine passport holders were visa-free in Israel;
  2. I needed a transit visa to stop in Bucharest.

I told them I don’t need a visa to enter Israel neither do I need a visa to stop in Bucharest. I emphasised it, maybe like, 20 times? They kept arguing with me until we had to consult Google. God, I can’t believe airline employees don’t know this.

Boarding in Bucharest

IMG_3809

Remember, when I check in my luggage in Dubai, the ground steward said, “your bag will go straight to Tel Aviv.”

In Bucharest, it was a different story…

“Hi! Can you check if my bag is already transferred in this flight?” I know I had to double check because something wasn’t right. I didn’t feel right. It was like my Panama-Colombia-lost-baggage-experience again. I could feel it. She then called the transfer desk and checked. It didn’t look good.

“I’m sorry madam but Wizz Air is a point to point airline. You should’ve known that you had to pick up your baggage at the arrivals area then check in again when you arrived here. If you want to board now, you have to go without a luggage but we will deliver it to Tel Aviv in 3 days.”

Please, it’s 2:30 in the morning and I am seriously drained. I don’t have the energy for this. And what does point to point airline mean? I bought a Dubai-Tel Aviv ticket. I did not choose to stop in Bucharest. They did that to me. But what she really meant was I don’t have anything to wear for 3 days (not even an underwear) and most importantly, the dress I bought to wear for the wedding is in that bag. Her colleague in Dubai clearly said I don’t have to pick my luggage up. And even if I had to, I cannot go to the arrival area to do it because I need a visa to pass Immigration.

Okay, math. Math. I hate math. But let’s do it: $275.00 USD (airfare) + 200 AED ($54.00 USD) taxi to airport + 250 AED ($68.00 USD) for the luggage + 100 AED ($27.00 USD) for food + $100.00 USD worth of shopping money. I need clothes, of course. 3 days is a long time. Grand total: $524.00 USD!!!

  • CONCLUSION: I am officially allergic to budget airlines. I always end up paying more.
  • CONCLUSION 2: If I booked in an upper class airline, I would have paid around $500 USD, too.
  • CONCLUSION 3: I am never flying with Wizz Air again. Ever. Even if I had the whole row to myself in both flights.
  • CONCLUSION 4: The wedding is in 2 days. I don’t have anything to wear for sure.

To make up for it, there wasn’t any question and answer portion. Security in Romania is pretty lenient. Boarding was so easy they didn’t even ask for the passport of the passengers. They just scanned away until boarding was complete.

Hello, Tel Aviv!

IMG_3834

The non-Israeli passport holders’ line was long af. I was in the far back and I kept looking at the Immigration counter to see if they are stamping the passports or they are giving a separate paper. I tiptoed like an idiot until I stepped on the foot of the Romanian lady behind me. I wanted to ask if she has been to Israel before and if she knows if I should ask for my passport not to be stamped but she already looked annoyed. Daniela, my Austrian friend who came a day before me already told me Israel doesn’t stamp passports anymore. But I wasn’t convinced.

After 45 minutes in line, my turn came. And I did what I think was best.

“Shalom! Hello. Can you stamp me on a separate paper?” Stamp me?! Was that even a correct term? I wasn’t sure. I handed him my passport anyway.

“Oh, you don’t want an Israeli stamp on your passport? Why?” Trick fcking question, I thought. This is psychological war and I’ve had enough of it since I left Dubai 24 hours prior. Of course, I want an Israeli stamp! My passport serves as a memory of all the countries I’ve been to. I would want one if it didn’t cause trouble in the Middle East.

“No, it’s not that. It’s just that I’ll be also traveling to other Middle Eastern countries.” I did not know if that was the right response but there! I said it.

“Which countries in the Middle East are you planning to visit?”

“Hmmm. Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Georgia…” Before I can continue, he interrupted.

“Georgia is not in the Middle East. What else?” Wow, is this a geography exam now?! I was really careful of what to say because I honestly don’t know if he will react violently.

“I don’t have plans at the moment as I am traveling for an indefinite time.” 

“How can you afford that? Are you a daughter of a rich family in the Philippines?”

“No. I work and save. That’s what I do.” Yeah, I work and save. Good job, Trisha.

“What was your job?” I explained I’m a journalist and all that shenanigan. You know what it is.

“This is a new passport. Can you please show me your old passports?” Relaxed af, I opened my bag and handed him 2 old passports.

“Impressive. All pages are full, wow. I saw you have three stickers in Hong Kong for the past month. What did you do there?”

“Just visiting some friends.”

“Three times in one month?”

“Yes.”

“Do you do drugs?”

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me. Do you take drugs?” Okay, now I look like a crack addict.

“No.”

“Not even a little grass?”

“No.”

“If you say so. Until when are you staying in Israel?” I said until the 23rd though I am not entirely sure what my plans are. There were huge follow up questions about my family and some personal background. After all those heart to heart qs, he finally asked why I am visiting Israel.

“My friends are getting married. I met them while I was traveling Peru last year.”

“What are their names?”

“Batel and Ilan.”

“Those are Israeli names.”

“Yes. The ones that are getting married are my Israeli friends. Don’t worry, everything is sababa.”

I used that line again because for every time, it was effective. He smiled at me, handed me my passport with a glossy card that served as my stamp for Israel. And yes friends, Israel doesn’t stamp passports anymore. (see featured photo above for a sample entry card)

Exiting the Immigration gates, I was finally able to breathe. I still have one problem though — my checked in bag. I went to the lost and found area and reported my “missing” luggage. They filed a report. I left Ilan’s local number to them just in case the bag arrives ahead of time.

I had 350 AED (almost $100.00 USD) left so I went to the nearest money changer and I was right. Israel don’t exchange the rich Emirati currency.

“Is there a place in the city where I can change dirhams to shekels?” Shekels is the currency of Israel.

“No. Nothing.”

“But there should be a place where all currencies can be exchanged, right? I mean, I was able to change Hong Kong dollars in Dubai.”

“No, Miss. The dirhams don’t have any use to this country.” I am now downgraded to Miss, from Madam in Dubai. I knew it! As weird as it is, Israel doesn’t change dirhams at all. Oh well, USD to shekels it is.

I hailed a cab and gave the driver my hostel’s address (back to hostel living yes. If you are not following on Snapchat = psimonmyway).

163 shekels to get to my hostel. Okay, let’s not do the math. I’m drained. I’m tired. I want to sleep. I want to eat. I want to see my friends, above all. It’s been a while.

Hell yeah, I am finally in Israel, thingsless, no extra underwear, no toiletries, no clothes but all my friends from Peru are here and I promise to enjoy Batel and Ilan’s wedding weekend!


Have you traveled to Israel from Dubai? How was the experience? I would love to hear from you! Leave your thoughts on the comment box below!

@PSIMONMYWAY

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Trisha is one of those people who left their comfortable life to travel the world and learn about life. Her style is to stay in one place she likes for 3 months (or more) to know what it feels like to eat, cook, speak and sleep in another culture that isn’t hers. She'd like to believe she's not traditionally traveling but she just chooses to be somewhere else all the time. Trisha also loves extremely spicy food, pineapples, plants and symmetry. In no particular order, her favourite cities in the world are Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong and Tel Aviv. Follow her life adventures on Instagram: @psimonmyway

  1. Thet Gueco

    13 August

    That’s a tiring trip you had there Ate Trisha. By the way, what does ‘everything is sababa’ means? I’m curious.

  2. Kenneth

    13 August

    aaaaw hugs hugs! I haven’t been to the Maktoum Airport yet cause it is really far! Atleast now you are safe and sound. Enjoy the rest of your trip! Remember may pa-welcome back party si Mayor pagbalik mo ha! Mishooooo powhz! Mwah!

  3. Steph

    13 August

    There aren’t direct flights to Israel from most Midfle Eastern countries because those countries don’t recognize Israel’s existence.
    You can’t change those countries’ currencies in Israel because the banks/exchangers won’t be able to change it back (Israeli passport holders are not allowed in Islamic countries as their passports are not recognized) as there is no demand for it.
    No worries about a passport stamp – they stopped doing those a year or so ago and you don’t even have to ask. They give you a slip of paper instead.

  4. Kisty

    13 August

    I’ve had my fair share of travel mishaps but not as frustrating as this one. At least the stressful part is over now (most of it, at least), so go and enjoy the rest of Israel and the wedding!

  5. Mario

    13 August

    Hi Trisha, Love your work and writing. However, you might be getting into a really harsh and deep topic here and just felt like commenting it:

    “Dubai and Israel are neighboring countries and for reasons that I haven’t researched yet, there are no direct flights between these 2 countries.”

    1. Dubai is part of the UAE, the country. I’m sure you know it, just as a clarification.
    2. The reasons of not having direct flights are being discussed for thousands of years, and it’s got to do with religion and overall ideological differences, I’m also sure you know it. And that applies to currencies and a long etc.

    Awesome experiences though! keep it up!

  6. Kasie

    13 August

    This is your worst post to date. It’s just full of rant and negative vibes. Gosh, just sleep on it.

  7. Sebrin

    13 August

    OMG what a travel tale! I’m sorry to hear of the craziness, but as you probably know, this is gonna be one hell of a funny story (if it isn’t kinda already)!

  8. Tita Merlina

    13 August

    Oh my G ,you are such an amazing girl, lady or woman whatever! But as you said, everything is sababa! God bless you!

  9. Ori

    13 August

    Regarding extra expenses, its all mentioned in the ticket(airport code(dxb/dwc), wizzair charge for hand carry always). PTP carriers usually don’t transfer luggage, unless on your luggage tag would be written TLV..was it btw??
    Of course it’s impossible to exchange dirhams in Israel, the countries dont even have diplomatic relations:)

    Enjoy Israel, and if you have any questions regarding the country,pm me on fb;) Ori

  10. Marge

    13 August

    Gosh this is too much stress. Now I know that when I go there it wouldn’t be smooth sailing. But I’m glad you got there fine and enjoy the wedding!

  11. Michel marilla

    13 August

    I travel to Israel I think 10yrs ago.. I hate it because they downgrade us Filipino.. I went their with my friend. Before boarding in HK connecting flight they also ask us how can you afford going to Israel? Who’s paying it? Blaahhh…Blaahh… Then it happened again when we arrived at Ben gurion airport.. And also before I forgot they separate are sit mostly between two big guys!!!grrrr.. While we’re roaming around tel aviv.. I experience 2 times a big white van stop in front of me and interrogate me and ask for my passport.. I found out..their immigration officer.. Since then,even though I’m B2 tourist visa.. I’m so afraid walking by myself or even with my friends especially in small alley.. I wanna go back their to see places where Jesus Christ walk but my experience is so horrible.. But maybe in time I’ll go there.. Old people our nice and polite but the student/military some of them are rude.. Hopefully now is different.. Still looking forward to go back to Israel..our kababayan are so hospitable and kind.

  12. Trisha,

    Not from Dubai. But from Rome I flew to Tel Aviv in May this year.
    No hassle in Tel Aviv. smooth and easy. I didnt like the arrival facility though.l: buses from the planes to the arrival bldg. long trip. r
    entry counter was a breeze. just one question: how long do i stay?
    they give a card for visa, no passport stamp. i didnt care anyway if stamp or card. no big thing. My 2 week Israel tour was glorious!
    A lesson learned for you: stay away from budget airlines, the add-ons are notorious.
    Take care Missy. btw your mom and I are friends. Say hello for me.

    Noli Z @city of angels

  13. Stacy Alcantara

    14 August

    Sorry to hear about your very stressful experience, Trisha! I wish you well in your future travels.

  14. Leanne

    14 August

    There is some sort of a ban for travel to Israel from any of the Gulf countries. And I heard that once you set foot in Israel, or you have an israel arrival stamp on your passport you are not allowed to enter any of the gulf countries as well as some muslim countries as well

  15. Reese

    14 August

    Wow! quite the adventure! Thanks for sharing both the ups and downs of travelling. We all need that dose of reality. Traveling isn’t always rainbows and sunshine. You’re so patient though! I would have just canceled my ticket and went somewhere else…but I guess… well it wasn’t purely vacation, it was for a wedding. That does make it harder to turn around. I guess I would have persisted too then. Man, that’s a tough one, but at least you made it there! And you’ll laugh about it later in life…too early to laugh now.

  16. Jo

    14 August

    What an extraordinary story! I always thought budget airlines were actually expensive so it’s great that you have done the math and proved it so eloquently. I do hope you had a lovely time at the wedding at least.

  17. Jhanz

    14 August

    This is CRAZYYYYYY. This is so stressful but I really admire your positive energy, Trisha! I hope you get your baggage soon enough. Enjoy the wedding!

  18. Lei Chan

    17 August

    Hi Trisha. The reason why there are no direct flights from Mid east countries to Israel is cuz of the territorial war between Israel and Muslim countries. Well here in the Mid East you can’t say “Israel”, they call it Palestine. I have a friend who hates it whenever I say Israel instead of Palestine. Because people here thinks that Palestine was stolen from muslims by jews. I live in Qatar and as far as I know there are no any diplomatic relations between most mid-east countries (no embassies whatsoever. In short, a lot of people in the Mid-east hates Israel. It’s unfortunate but yeah…

  19. Christina

    18 August

    I was highly stressed just reading this post. I have a love / hate relationship with budget airlines myself. I hope your bag arrives and you have the dress in time for the wedding!

  20. verushka

    18 August

    Damn a long and expensive flight. Budget airlines are not cool.

  21. Corinne

    18 August

    Trisha, What a mess! I hope you ended up enjoying your trip to Israel and especially the wedding! You’ll never forget this story, of that I’m sure.

  22. anna

    18 August

    Oh wow! What a stressful ordeal. Glad you’re there safely though. Enjoy the rest of your time and I hope your baggage shows up!

  23. Johna

    18 August

    Ohmyyyy what a terrible experience! We were just in Israel but we flew from Rome, hassle free. But I loved Israel! Hope your having a great time despite losing your luggage 🙁

  24. Ateng bella flawless

    20 August

    Next time, have an extra pantry, bra and shirt in your carry all bag when you travel. It pays to carry those extra weight on your shoulders. Always take care.

  25. Darlene

    21 August

    What a stressful experience. and i disagree with people saying that this post is full of negative vibes. Well life in general is not all roses. And that applies to traveling too. we got to face the bad and ugly side of traveling too, to appreciate all the good that comes with it. Glad that you survived this ordeal already. And yes, the relationship between Israel and the rest of the Middle East countries and the world is a deep and murky one submerged in religion, politics and ideological differences.

  26. Janine Satioquia Tan

    21 August

    I loved this! Did you ever get your luggage back?

    Love from Singapore!

  27. JM

    22 August

    Well that is a long creepy story. It was like reading a suspense/thriller book. Hope you had a great time in Israel after those troubles that you encountered. You should have offered a coffee to the Immigration in case he wanted to ask you further questions about your personal life.

  28. Pete Mahon

    22 August

    This sounded so stressful!! Love your writing style! Keep up the great work 🙂

  29. Teesh

    2 September

    I got so stressed out just reading about this!! Safe travels! 🙂

  30. Wilcor David

    8 November

    I’m so sorry to hear this Trisha, but still you handle your self very well. “sababa”

  31. Citlali Flores

    16 December

    H Trisha!

    I love to read your blog, Im from México (I started following your blog before your “mexican dating” post), Im a new travel blogger from Mx, im starting my own blog in spanish (I think theres is a lot of travel blog in english, I’ld like to start something in my own lenguage), so Im writting all my memories and experiences on it.

    When I was in Tel Aviv in 2013 I took my fly from Rumania, so I din’t experience that horrible journey you told us, but when I arrived to Ben Gurion airport I experienced the most horrible interview border in my life!!.. Why is a mexican coming to Israel?, Who is paying for this? .. Are you a drug dealer?.. God!
    Im not Chapo’s daughter, Im paying for myself I thought!…

    I guess this is part of the journey we choose to live!.. Send you a big hug and keep going girl!
    My best whises from Mx.

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